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When I arrived by car last night here in Cambridge, I got lost on my way to Churchill College and eventually had to ask somebody for directions.

Kind of embarrassing given that I spent four years in this town. To my excuse I can only say that (i) it was dark, (ii) I never looked at Cambridge through the eyes of a driver, (iii) I entered Cambridge from “the other end” (the West), more or less opposite of my “academic cradle”, so that I was never really familiar in that area, (iv) I was tired and (v) I was focusing on staying on the left side of the road.

Somewhat more embarrassing: today I got lost again – on foot. I went for a slow 25km run, criss-crossing all roads in this lovely town. Once I got “off the beaten track” in order to explore and broaden my horizon, I eventually ended up at the “Beehive Centre“. Never heard of it? Neither had I. So I asked a young lady to point me in the rough direction of the city centre, which she did.

Overall, pretty amazing how little places and streets stick in my mind. I had pretty much forgotten the name of every single college in town, and I’m not sure if I could have retraced the path I used to take for three years to lectures every morning. (In my last year most lectures had already been moved to the new CMS building.)

But, despite all, I immediately recognized Shirley.

Shirley is not young, not exactly pretty, but she always brightened up my day with her somewhat motherly voice and the way she addresses everyone with “my dear”. Shirley still works as a checkout clerk at Sainsbury’s in Sidney Street.

That was odd.

This morning I was waiting at a red traffic light at this intersection. Just as pretty much every morning. So I was looking around and reading random stickers and slogans on cars around me. Right in front of me there was a huge tractor with some sort of agricultural machine behind it. And on this machine there was an address. Wegholmer Str. 14. 32469 Petershagen.

Now this might not strike you as odd. But the fact is that I live (or rather my mom lives) just ten houses away from that address. A mere 200 meters down the road. So I was a bit startled to see this address anywhere in Lausanne. [Well, first it actually took me a while to figure out, what exactly was so familiar, yet so odd about this address.]

Jenz is a “local” (… if you happen to live where I used to live …) company specialized on grinders and chippers. I knew they were exporting their products all over the world, but only know could I witness this with my own eyes when I saw a bit of “home” on the road in Lausanne.

Until yesterday I had never met a person called “Gottfried” in my whole life. Given the name, I probably would have expected to meet some 70+ year old in rural area of Germany. I’m not sure what the “English equivalent” would be maybe something like Benvolio, which is probably equally rare.

So I was pleasantly surprised to meet a computer science student from Nigeria called Gottfried.

The occasion for this meeting was created by a fondue organized by a local couchsurfing member in Vevey.

The Wikipedia entry for Ethiopia mentions:

“In English, Ethiopia was also historically known as Abyssinia, derived from the Arabic form of the Ethiosemitic name “ḤBŚT,” modern Habesha.”

What it does not mention that there is also an Ethiopian restaurant with this name in Lausanne. Fortunately, I know people who know more than the Wikipedia. 🙂

One of the things that struck me as odd, after we had sat down, was the fact that the tables and chairs were “out of sync”. What I mean: The chairs were not in front of the (small) tables present but in front of, well, essentially nothing. Or rather something table like which was far too low to actually serve as a table. Only when I saw how the food was served to our neighbors (see the pictures here to get an idea), did I understand how things work. The “proper” tables where just for the drinks and more sauces etc., but the food is served in a big woven structure, which has a sombrero hat like lid and a woven pillar like bottom part. This then contains a big plate on which the food is served and it is also the actual table.

Oh, by the way, if you find eating with chopsticks too challenging then this is the place for you. Here you’re expected to eat with your fingers.

The day before yesterday, when I was coming home from work in the evening, I stopped behind another car at a red traffic light. (This one to be exact.) Just when the traffic light was about to turn green, the driver in front of me left his car and, apparently, walked away. Probably some sort of argument with the person sitting next to the driver (though he seemed to remain perfectly calm). Strange. I managed to change lanes in time to still cross the intersection without having to wait during the next red phase, so I don’t know how the whole story ended.

Now what really amazed me is that nobody used his car horn to express her/his/its state of annoyance over the fact that the lane was now blocked. Everybody simply remained calm. I’d imagine that in most countries this would have been handled differently. In the best case, there would have been a deafening concert of car horns. But it in some South American countries the driver probably would have been shot or at least had his car stolen (with the second person as a hostage). [Long live my prejudices!]

No, yesterday was not already Halloween, but when I saw so many people already in costume in the city centre I simply
couldn’t resist the temptation and hold back the desire to throw myself into costume and put on some make-up.

So, luckily, I was well prepared when some kids rang on my door at about 8pm. They where supposed to be devils and vampires
and I assume that, in the usual trick-or-treat fashion, they were supposed to scare me. So it was with great joy that I opened the door in my costume to scare them certainly more than they scared me.  🙂

Still, I didn’t manage to scare them away completely and when the moment of surprise had passed one of them still remembered to ask (in a weak voice) for some candy which I gave to them. I’m pretty sure that they won’t forget this particular door on their trick-or-treating trip.  🙂

Yesterday, there was the “Nuit des Musées” here in Lausanne. As the name suggests, the museums were open until 2am. I just had two items on my list: The “Espace des Inventions” and the “Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts“.

The Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts is currently still hosting an exhibition by the Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar (who surprisingly does not have a Wikipedia entry). Don’t get me wrong: I’m really ignorant when it comes to the history of art or the knowledge of contemporary artists, but there are lots of posters for this exhibition all over Lausanne. Here‘s a picture of one such specimen. Any clever political/philosophical art I certainly find appealing.

I must say that overall I was really impressed by the creativity of the things on display. Everything had a certain “aha”-effect which took a few seconds to settle in. E.g., there was a video of a clarinet player in an empty room who just makes random (and not very pleasing noises). At first I just thought “That’s pretty stupid!”. But then I realized that next to the video screen, in a not very prominent spot, there was a photograph of the same clarinet player in uniform and playing behind two soldiers which were taking cover in what appeared to be a civil war in South America. This changed my whole perspective on the video.

Most of his pieces of art had a political message and often pointed out the inhumane side of capitalism or the Western ignorance with respect to global problems in the world. The past projects on his homepage also look absolutely fascinating. I hope I’ll have a chance to see more of his work in the future.

I like mainstream/commercial salsa. Easy, catchy sing-along tunes and clear and simple rhythms. Great to dance to (in my opinion). I also like mainstream cartoons it seems.

This weekend there was a cartoon festival here in Lausanne. Without looking at the program before, I just went there on Saturday evening with a friend. We ended up going to an exhibition organized by the Atrabile publishing house. What was great: We got in for free as the guy at the door was really nice, they had free candy and chips and there were
lots of very creative and very artistic cartoons. Still, there were also a lot of “alternative” cartoons, which I somehow failed to appreciate. E.g., a poorly drawn story which went as follows:
Guy wants sex. Guy goes to discotheque. Guy hits on a couple of girls.
Guy gets rejected all the time. Guy finally finds a completely drunk/only half-conscious
chick. Guy fucks her in the bathroom. End of story.

Not exactly the conventional type of Donald Duck story I must admit (though I haven’t read recent Donald Duck stories for 1-2 years now, so thing might have changed), but I still somehow can’t quite see the artistic (or political or whatever) value of this. If it had been the first story of this kind, I’d have appreciated its originality/freshness, but given that there were several others like this (by different authors as well), I just can’t grasp the advantage over an ordinary porn magazine.

Something I did however really appreciate at the exhibition was a room with lots of post-it  notes. Each artist could use a big square of 10 x 10 post-it notes to tell a story or do whatever. A nice idea and a nice variety of different outcomes.

Last weekend I went with my “French teacher”/language tandem partner to
see a South African movie (“A boy called Twist“) as part of the
African film festival here in Lausanne. Two things that
struck me as bizarre were (i) the fact that there were
only three colored people in the audience (the South African
ambassador in Switzerland, one of the organizers, and Julie) and (ii) the fact
that I noticed this at all.


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